Joss Whedon has done it again, producing an intriguing and entertaining series that tells a story full of unforgettable characters inhabiting a slightly off centered reality.
Dollhouse is an unusual organization overseen by the elegant and brilliant Adelle DeWitt (Olivia Williams) for the mysterious Rossum Corporation. The Dollhouse is full of young, fit individuals called “actives” who have had their minds wiped, but can be programmed to play roles when hired by someone needing a particular type or skill.
Rather like the ultimate prostitution, the actives are for sale both body and mind and the audience is not certain on which side of the law they are operating. There are rumors of the Dollhouse that are being pursued by agent Paul Ballard (Tahmoh Penikett) as he encounters the active Echo (Eliza Dushku) in various operations, always with a different persona.
His neighbor Mellie (Miracle Laurie) gets involved in his quest, and a relationship develops in spite of his dedication to his work. Each active is overseen by a “handler” a situation that presents both stability such as in Echo’s handler Boyd Langton (Harry Lennix) and gross misuse of power as in the relationship between Sierra (Dichen Lachman) and her handler.
Topher Brink (Fran Kranz) and Dr. Claire Saunders (Amy Acker) are in charge of the wiping and reprogramming of the actives, and everyone who has not been wiped is terrified of a powerful and dangerous rogue active called “Alpha.”
As in all Joss Whedon’s work, it is only partly the story that makes his series so appealing. He is able to gather wonderful casts of actors who work well together and produce shows that have depth and meaning as well as entertainment.
Production quality including set design and small elements are just as important to the overall impact of the Dollhouse story as plot devices, and Joss Whedon again collects masters of art and architecture, set dressing, music and lighting, costuming and make up to complete his vision and pass it on to the viewer.
The audience sees the world of the Dollhouse more or less from Echo’s point of view. Unlike other actives, she remains curious even when she is in the wiped or dim state. As the stories progress, we see that she is retaining some of her experiences or knowledge and this creates a dangerous situation.
Dollhouse is presented on three discs in widescreen format. Disc One has a guest commentary available for the first episode Ghost. The commentary is given by Eliza Dushku and Joss Whedon, and is entertaining and informative. They address some of the difficulties encountered in getting Dollhouse on the air, from the writer’s strike to running out of money while filming, their good humored take makes it seem like part of the adventure.
Eliza Dushku does most of her stunts, and in the first episode we see her racing and wrecking a large motorcycle on a city street. Disc Two has a commentary by Joss Whedon for the episode Man in the Street. Again, audiences will learn some of the high and low points in the production.
Dollhouse is amazing, funny, tragic and totally addictive television viewing. If you haven’t seen it, now is your chance to catch up with season one.